There is also an element of breath-holding with children – especially the first. If you just shut your eyes and hold on tight and never do anything, not brush your hair or go out for dinner or pumice your heels or anything, then soon it will all be over and you can go back to doing those things at your leisure.
But you don’t go back to doing things at your leisure for years. If you want to do those things for yourself, the grooming, the exercise, the meditation or whatever, you have to fight for them. You have to say: I am going to do this thing and be selfish.
For some women it comes naturally, and I daresay those are the ones who go on to have sixteen children and hold down major banking jobs. For the rest of us, it’s a constant internal struggle.
It is, though, simply a fact that you have a duty to your family, if no-one else, to stay sane and as cheerful as is feasible. And only you can do that.
After I had children, I realised with some dismay that I am no longer the lead character in the film of my life. No-one is coming to rescue me, no-one is going to ring me up and say ‘you need to go to a spa for a week’.
No-one is going to pamper me, I have to do it myself, which feels slightly wrong, like organising my own massive birthday party.
And whatever staying sane and cheerful to you means, you have to do that, whether it’s getting regular haircuts and pedicures, or going to thrash metal concerts three times a month.
I am always brought to mind, when I think about this, of the Norwegian Army, where it is an offence, punishable by court-martial, to get frostbite.
So, look: don’t be a hero.